The New Year started with a bang as the 2016 Monster Energy Arenacross Tour, powered by Ford Ranger, exploded into life at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night.

Monster Girls, backflips, huge whips, flashing lights, flames, lasers, a Tron-like freestyle show and of course the cream of European AX pro riders all served up a family-friendly night of entertainment that had the packed arena on their feet.

The UK Arenacross Tour over the last three years has firmly established itself as the most watched motocross series in the UK, drawing in tens of thousands of spectators, which includes many young ‘uns that will help provide the backbone of off-road fans for years to come.

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And with the inclusion of US supercross star Josh Hansen to the series, the AXUK Tour is attracting a considerable amount of attention from around the globe.

Hansen was widely expected to compete in the 250 supercross championship in 2016 after a successful return to the sport in 2015 but favoured a new challenge of winter racing across the pond.

A packed house welcomed the Monster Energy Arenacross opening round where three champions, Buildbase Honda’s Adam Chatfield, LPE Kawasaki’s Fabien Izoird and the number one plate holder Thomas Ramette (SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki) were set to do battle and measure themselves against one of the USA’s finest supercross pilots – SJR’s Josh Hansen.

In the 65cc class it was Kiean Boughen who impressed the most. A final lap mistake saw Boughen settle for second spot in the first 65cc heat that took place in the afternoon before the doors opened. However, young Kiean bounced back strong when it really mattered and took the second and final moto win in front of the packed arena to take the overall win and the series points lead.

Ollie Colmer also showed talent as well as a huge set of danglies, certainly not being afraid to go big. Colmer took advantage of Boughen’s first moto mishap, taking the moto win. But he just didn’t have quite enough to answer Boughen’s steely determination in the second moto. Young Tyler Etheridge rounded out the 65cc podium in third place.

The Supermini class is a new and revised format to this year’s series. Pitching both small and big wheel 85 class racers against each other in a test to see who is the top 85cc AX pilot.

The most consistent rider of the night in this class and the eventual overall winner was last year’s big wheel 85 champion, Harry Kimber. The Hardcore racing rider showed speed, stamina and consistency that his rivals found hard to match.

An altercation with a tuff block in the first moto saw Kimber drop back to second allowing the Team Green rider Kacey Hird to take the lead and the win in what was his inaugural race on board a big wheeled machine.

The second Supermini moto proved to be slightly chaotic for everyone apart from the #78 of Harry Kimber. The Westlander controlled the race from start to finish claiming his spot on top of the box.

Mistakes in moto two meant that Kacey Hird could only manage a sixth place. A more consistent performance from Ben Burridge, who went 3-2, meant that he was just able to nick second spot on the podium from Hird by just one point.

The Pro Lites class saw a more evenly spaced field throughout. Joe Clayton threw down the gauntlet for the series, taking two moto wins. George Clark and Jordan Moxey followed him up in second and third in each of the motos.

Pro Class Heats

There has been a lot of heated discussion over at DBR towers on how Hanny would approach the series. How serious would he take the tour?

On Saturday night in Manchester we got our answer.

The crowed were treated to Hansen and reigning champ Ramette for the opening Pro Heat. Now, anyone that has followed Hansen’s career knows that he is as aggressive as they come when it counts. If you combine that style and attitude with a super-tight AX track you’re going to get fireworks.

Yeah, Hanny wasn’t in Manchester just for a paycheck. We got fireworks.

Ramette took the Heat win with Hansen in second and he sounded a little dejected but determined in his post-race interview, and with that we knew Hansen was taking this seriously.

Potentially the biggest surprise of the night came in the form of the red number four that belongs to Wooldridge Demolition’s Matt Bayliss.

As the pro racers hit the track once more it was British pilot Bayliss that engaged the crowd’s patriotism after watching two Frenchmen take wins in the first two heats.

Heat three belonged to Bayliss – he nailed the holey, led the entire race and fought back a last corner attack from former champ Izoird to take the chequers in a race that got the entire arena to their feet.

It was this performance – alongside an intense bar-to-bar duel with Izoird, which ended with the Frenchmen on his arse – that saw Bayliss quickly become a favourite amongst the Manchester crowd.

If the Honda rider can bring that level of excitement and intensity to every round he’ll be one to watch out for.

After popping his Arenacross cherry Hansen managed to claim his first race win in the final heat race of the night, giving him first gate pick for the Main.

H2H

Another staple of the Arenacross series is the head-to-head bar-bangers.

These races see the riders that have qualified for the Main take each other on in short two lap dashes in the pursuit of bonus points, which could be crucial at the end of evening and more importantly when points are tallied at the end of the series.

At every round you can guarantee that these races will serve up a feast of frenetic bar-to-bar racing and moments of magic that’ll keep the fans talking about the night long after the final chequer has dropped.

Riding a wave of confidence after his heat win, Hanny surfed right through each round of the H2H battles to meet Geartec Yamaha’s Cedric Soubeyras in the final.

An early bobble in this short sprint race saw Hansen lose time that was impossible to reclaim, leaving the Frenchmen with an emphatic win over the American and four vital bonus points that would be very valuable come the end of the night.

Hanny didn’t look too pleased, he has clearly set high standards for himself. He means business and isn’t turning up to make new pro rider friends.

Pro Class Main Event

After the intense, hold your breath head-to-head races the crowd were in a frenzy and ready for the final gate drop – the Main Event.

From the off the reigning champion – Ramette if you recall – took control pulling the holey and keeping himself clear of any possible trouble.

Behind the champ Hansen took the opening corner tight and Buildbase Honda’s Angelo Pellegrini came in too hot, slamming into Hanny, taking both of them off and leaving SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki’s Cyrille Coulon, who was unable to take avoiding action, stranded at the back of the pack.

And there was more of the same to come as Ramette continued to work on stretching out his lead, the carnage behind him continued.

The two Brits of Jack Brunell (SJR Kawasaki) and Bayliss sat second and third with the night’s head-to-head champion, Soubeyras chasing them down in fourth. Soubeyras made an aggressive pass on Bayliss for a podium spot and Bayliss was booted over a berm.

Simultaneously at the opposite end of the track Hansen was losing more ground to the front runners while behind British pilot Gradie Featherstone and when Hanny’s patience ran out, Featherstone found himself in the dirt.

As the final lap card went out a blanket could have been thrown over the top three with Hansen’s team-mate, Brunell closing in on Ramette just as Soubeyras pressured the Kawasaki rider in second.

Ramette, who was the fastest qualifier, had been smooth the entire day and kept his cool to claim the victory as Soubeyras was able to pinch second away from Jack Brunell.

In a gutsy ride after an early off, Izoird was able to work all the way back up to fourth place.

And after his first lap crash and problems making his way through the pack Hansen was only able to manage an eighth place. However, the importance of performing well in the head-to-head duels now comes into play.

Soubeyras’ H2H win earned him an extra four points, which tied him with Ramette and by a quirk of the rulebook, gave Cedric the overall and left him top of the championship.

Similarly Hansen’s second place in the head-to-head races gave him an extra three points which bumped him up from eighth to sixth overall.

All in all the opening round of the 2016 Monster Energy Arenacross Tour really did light up Manchester. We had great racing, new personalities emerging and surely the beginnings of some on-going dramas and rivalries that will certainly result in even more bar-banging racing down the line. Bring on Round Two in Glasgow this weekend.

And if you’ve never attended an UK Arenacross event, well it’s about damn time that you did. You’re missing out big time!

Monster Energy Arenacross Pro Class Main Event – Manchester Arena RD 1

Pos

No.

Name

Sponsor

Make

Points

Laps

Best Tm

1

1

Thomas Ramette

SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki

Suzuki

20

14

23.834

2

120

Cedric Soubeyras

Geartec Yamaha

Yamaha

18

14

23.843

3

155

Jack Brunell

SJR Kawasaki

Kawasaki

16

14

24.093

4

871

Fabien Izoird

LPE Kawasaki

Kawasaki

15

14

23.429

5

5

Cyrille Coulon

SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki

Suzuki

14

14

23.969

6

407

Adam Chatfield

Buildbase Honda

Honda

13

14

24.614

7

2

Florent Richier

LPE Kawasaki

Kawasaki

12

14

24.559

8

100

Josh Hansen

SJR Kawasaki

Kawasaki

11

14

24.094

9

4

Matt Bayliss

Wooldridge Demolition

Honda

10

14

24.271

10

941

Angelo Pellegrini

Buildbase Honda

Honda

9

14

24.774

11

9

Gradie Featherstone

Xbladez Husqvarna

Husqvarna

8

11

24.830

Monster Energy Arenacross Pro Class Standings

Pos

No.

Name

Total

Diff

Gap

Total

1

120

Cedric Soubeyras

22

0

0

22

2

1

Thomas Ramette

22

0

0

22

3

155

Jack Brunell

16

6

6

16

4

871

Fabien Izoird

15

7

1

15

5

5

Cyrille Coulon

14

8

1

14

6

100

Josh Hansen

14

8

0

14

7

407

Adam Chatfield

13

9

1

13

8

2

Florent Richier

12

10

1

12

9

4

Matt Bayliss

11

11

1

11

10

941

Angelo Pellegrini

9

13

2

9

11

9

Gradie Featherstone

8

14

1

8

12

259

Chris Bayliss

4

18

4

4

13

114

Jordan Booker

3

19

1

3

14

65

Daniel McCoy

2

20

1

2

15

28

Jake Vella

1

21

1

1

16

68

Shane Carless

0

22

1

0

17

151

Harri Kullas

0

22

0

0

18

200

James Dunn

0

22

0

0

19

33

Ashley Greedy

0

22

0

0

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